Monday, August 16, 2004

The new threat to record companies: The CD covermount

Oh, for god's sake. Now parts of the music industry are moaning about the free CDs given away by the papers at the weekend. The Music Managers Forum - no, we hadn't, either - have wailed that it sends a message that "music is cheap and disposable" and is begging its members not to allow their artists to be used in the promotions.

MMF chairman John Glover told BBC News Online: "Music is valuable, you should be willing to pay for it. The message you get from a newspaper is music is free. It devalues all of our artists' catalogues. "It's madness - I don't know why our industry does this. That catalogue will be worth nothing in years' time because everyone will have got it for free. "I have now got here a massive collection of these free CDs," he said. "They're fantastic CDs but almost every artist I've ever managed since I started managing back in the 70s is appearing on these."

Glover was one of the people behind Victoria Beckham's solo career, so he knows about devaluing music. The thing is, of course, that he's wrong on two counts. First of all, most of the free CDs that come with papers are either fairly rubbish, or, in the case of the ones mounted on the Daily Star and express, totally rubbish. There are exceptions - the Guardian's recent couple of free CDs featuring Franz Ferdinand, or the Times every so often doing a band special - but these are clearly attempts to promote groups to new audiences as much as boost sales; most CDs are made up off off-cuts of well-worn back catalogues - the 'best of Disco/80s/glam' compilations favoured by the Saturday tabloids tend to feature tracks that have been anthologised so often they'd struggle to command a price above two quid in the last petrol station open on Christmas Eve. Secondly, the "it sends the message that music is free" is just absolute nonesense - the covermounted record has been a staple of the pop papers for years, and yet their readers kept buying records in far greater numbers than the non-music paper reading population at large; does he really think that someone getting a CD with Rose Royce doing Carwash is going to be so thick as to not be able to understand the concept of a Free Gift?

The garden magazines give away free baskets and kneeling pads all the way through spring and summer; it doesn't lead to a bunch of their readers being caught shoplifting from the accessories department at Wyevale.

[This post was slightly edited 21/04/07 to match the current No Rock house style and to correct a spelling mistake; the content was unchanged]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Something similar happened in the late 1980s/early 1990s with the computer magazine industry; the companies complained that Sinclair User and Your Sinclair were destroying the Spectrum market by giving away free games (and not, at all, that it was ten years old or anything). They got what they wanted eventually, but surprisingly the Spectrum market still died…

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